The right to philosophy

The capacity to aspire is a future-oriented cultural capacity

Arjun Appadurai


If this is the age of despair, namely that time in which it is not possible to glimpse a future, either personal or collective, due to the disappointments about corrupt politics and systemic issues such as the climate crisis, then the philosophy of the third millennium should take on the task of resisting it, envisaging horizons of freedom.

The words with which I started this post might sound naïve to many or even motivated by the titanic desire to change the world. In other cases, they could be rightly criticized by reporting concrete examples of hope already in action. And many other objections could be raised, especially in attributing an almost messianic role to philosophy, in the face of a history that has revealed it to be a cold discipline of pure thought, the handmaid of the dominant power, or just inconclusive interpretation. Notably, Jacques Derrida warns against the emphatic expressions that define the task of philosophy, inviting instead to experience the deconstruction of what we call “philosophy” in contexts, places, people, practices, which are always plural and heterogeneous. At the same time, Derrida is also the author of Du droit à la philosophie (1990).

With this post, I would like to direct the attention to the right to philosophy. Recognizing this right is essential because philosophy has been discredited (along with governmental funding cut) in some countries, for example, Brazil. But it is also crucial for acknowledging its value in replying to the issues of our times.

For defending the right to philosophy, I suggest taking it along with the notion of resistance as the space that opens up horizons of freedom, in Foucauldian-Deleuzian terms. Resistance is first. It is a visionary anteriority, which escapes opposition to the given, but enables the otherwise. In this sense, it is the future.

As I understand it, resistance is strictly linked to the “capacity to aspire”. The capacity to aspire is a proactive force that enables a dynamical transformation of what already exists. Aspiration is then the force to imagine a future already here, in the context we are immersed. It works from within by opening spaces for transformation. Daily exercises of contextual liberation, individual and collective, are then enacted in the search for cracks, in the experience of doubts, in the confidence of the transformative power of the paradoxes themselves. In this sense, aspiration brings to the resistance of the impossible, the aporetic opening that reveals possibilities of transformation.

The intertwining of resistance, aspiration, and impossibility makes me focus on the capacity inherent to the impossible, as a fertile basin for a passionate and tenacious resistance that frees aspirations. Against a force that says that "it is impossible" to change the state of things, resistance finds the spaces of transformation in the impossible itself, that possible content of the same impossibility (in-possibilis) that marks its vulnerability.

The right to philosophy belongs to the common. It is not simply an individual duty. In other words, it is necessary to fight for the right to philosophy collectively. Are you ready to do it together?


Laura Candiotto